15 to 50 students

Most years we get about 20 to 25 students signing up and about 15 or so at competition.

This year we are getting 50 students in our lab every week. By the same ratio, I need to get at least 30 students slots at competitions.

It’s a good problem to have, but definitely a problem. It breaks our existing logistics and Management systems, which we’ve run with about four adults historically (and have gone as lean as two).

For example, we’ve been doing a pair of 10 passenger vans to get to competition for forever, and that just won’t cut it this year. Is it time for a bus?

What did you wish you knew when your team went through this kind of inflection point growth?

What has made logistics for 50 sustainable, that you used to be able to just kind of fake for 15?

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Parent Drivers! There’s always at least 2 parents who are going to comp anyways, always see if they would be okay either driving a third passenger van or even just 2-3 extra students in their own vehicles. How far away are your comps? We tend to allow students to drive THEMSELVES not others to our home event (less than 1.5hrs). But require an adult for anything longer. See if a parent is willing to help with the logistics of it. ie give them an estimated number and they can look into best hotel rates, food, travel, etc…

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This may not be feasible due to district policy.

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Are you guys school based or community based? We have a large team of 90+ and are essentially forced to choose ~50+ students to bring to comp any given day due to taking one school bus. Some positions are obviously the same students for all days of an event, but other positions are loose (some scouting positions) to allow different kids to attend each day.

Its a frustrating process, especially when mentors are forced to select students to attend an event, and is not fun at all unless very clear expectations are set for what qualifies a student to be eligible to attend an event. For example one criteria is that students have higher chances of attending Worlds or even DCMP if they’ve scored well in our scouting test.

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I didn’t even think of that since we are a commubnity team that partners with the school not run by, so we have alot more gray areas to play with.

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Adding on here, Participation is big for us when we make choices for travel. Yes, I would like as many to come as possible, but when it comes to travel costs and limitations based on transportation (flights, vehicles, etc) we need to be selective. Also, you have 50 now, but how many will stick around through the rigors of post kickoff season?

Traditionally, weve prioritized the students who were able to contribute the most and know their roles best. We do rotate in students when our schedule allows it. Thankfully for our home regional we can allow everyone. The rule for that is basically find your own transportation to and from the event. While this might be difficult depending on policies, its the most convenient for us as bus transportation is not an option for us more times than not.

Our team grew to 50+ students in the fall of 2022. It was kind of a bad time :frowning: We couldn’t use all those students effectively, and we couldn’t provide them with effective mentorship in turn. Idle hands being the devil’s playthings and all, the result was a lot of distraction and disunity that had an impact on team morale.

This year we have decided to keep our student:mentor ratio at 5:1 or below, which means we can’t have more than 25-30 students. Maybe we can get larger once we are able to recruit more mentors (and somehow add more build / teaching space). Now the really hard part is choosing which 30 students should be invited…

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We grew from probably 15 active kids to 30ish since COVID.

We ran into the same issue of having too many hands and not enough productive work so now wee have our rookie freshmen and sophomores build an everybot as their primary task during build season. They get to learn how to build, program and wire an FRC robot with relatively minimal mentor guidance (they should go to an experienced upperclassmen for help first and we check in on them to give guidance if they get stuck). They are still expected to participate in off-season meetings and training as well to learn basic skills.

This helps train those new students and give them a year where they don’t have the design and manufacturing pressure / burnout to learn hands-on about FRC robots and gameplay. Also, it puts them in position to where their job at competition is helping the struggling teams that are willing to accept their help because our kids know how to properly wire, they know how to help program basic drivetrains / autos, troubleshooting, etc., This is way more fun for the students than only scouting or sitting at the safety glass desk (every kid on our team has a job or is volunteering when we’re at the events). It’s been an awesome way to get them involved with something and manage mentor burnout so we’re not overwhelmed with finding something for less capable kids to do all the time.

Everybody else’s comments are spot on. We didn’t have great tools and procedures that has caused some stress. Basically, we looked at 1678’s handbook as our starting point and made changes for our team’s needs. We met w/ the athletic director and theatre director about attendance requirements, addressing how to cut/remove kids, travel policies, dues, etc… and we’ve aligned to what is common with other larger groups at our school.

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Grew from 16->28 active from 2022 to 2023, and expecting to peak 40 or so this year (rut roh).

For build-season logistics, the main thing that we work on balancing is (shocking no one) new student learning. This year we’ve built out some pretty extensive moduled pathways for CAD and programming students to follow, with lots of weekly assignments to keep up engagement. We’re also using our old CIMs and 775pros to build an offseason robot, and will use that as both CAD practice for our experienced students and as training for new mech students. While this is true with any sized team, one of the important things we’ve started doing is pushing our leadership to have a concrete plan for training at least 48hr in advance of each meeting (we don’t always hit this). We’ve run into “yeah no I didn’t really have a plan for today so I guess we’re gonna clean the shop” a few too many times.

For travel team eligibility, we require 75% meeting participation to go to comp, averaged across the season (though I will have a private conversation with the student if they’re on a boom/bust cycle with attendance). We track at the meeting level instead of the hour level. We meet 4x/wk in season, so just come to any 3 of those. I don’t care if it’s MWF (9hr total) vs WFS (12hr total). We have a lot of students who are averaging 3.5-4 meetings a week, and only had 2 students who were below (and they were at 73% or something). When we add extra shop days, those will count positively toward your count without affecting the total, so it’s an extra way to recoup time. If you’re over 75%, we cover all your comp fees (we work out of a Title I school, so we’re very focused on removing all economic barriers to participation. Hence, no team fees). If you’re under, on a per-case basis you’re allowed to cover your own fees and come to comp. This has happened once in the last 2 years. We’ve found that this structure has been a sufficient motivator so far. Last season we probably had 40 students in pre-pre-season (Aug-Oct), 35 in pre-season (Oct-Dec, when we stop accepting signups and “lock” our roster in mid-Oct), and 28 who stayed active from kickoff to our last regional. At the end of the day, FRC isn’t the best program fit for every student. I will bend over backwards to include students who want to be there (I drive a carpool to and from most meetings, open the shop at weird hours, and bend rules for students who have extenuating circumstances frequently), but I’ve found that stricter attendance requirements and setting a threshold (but not cap) on competition attendance has really helped students self-identify if they actually want to be there or not.

For competition logistics, the main advantage of more students is everyone gets a little more downtime. We run 2 full scouting shifts of 8 (3 robot scouts + 1 super scout per alliance), and rotate these shifts every 10 matches. Students not scouting will rotate into pit (mech/judging), impact, media, or break. While we do have a few students who opt to work extra scouting shifts, almost everyone had no trouble holding their attention for 10 matches. For lunch, we prep sandwiches in the hotel the night before. Mentors go out to by the standard fixings, and students will prep their own food. It’s really cost-effective and doesn’t scale super linearly with headcount, which is nice. We’re in this great part of the country where we don’t have a home regional (:cowboy_hat_face:), so we have to buy hotels each time. These also don’t scale linearly since we put 4 to a room, which helps squeeze in an extra student here or there. We’re very lucky that our school district allows us to take personal vehicles to events. We rent one 12~ seat van and then take 4 or so mentor vehicles, plus usually a pickup truck that’s towing the trailer and has a bunch of student baggage. Though I haven’t done it much yet (I probably should), I would recommend also making sure you have a pretty robust buddy system in place. It helps track headcount easier. I typically track by hotel room, because it’s harder to lose a group of 4 than a group of 2.

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Would you be willing to share your scouting test? Sounds like a great idea.

Hi, You may find that your school pushes you toward busses. If you can afford it, it’s much easier to track that many students with a bus.
There are a lot of ways to scale up participation if you have student and mentor interest. If you’re not doing all the awards yet, that can be a multi person job.

At competition, anyone without a permanent job gets rotated through scouting shifts. Scouting can have 8-10 positions pretty easily. 6 watching robots, 2 handling data-runners, 2-4 people pit scouting. Media person, volunteers for the venue. We have newest mechanical students rotate through electrical pit shadow, mechanical pit shadow. Our awards people are another set of students.

We scaled up a couple years ago too. We get to about 110 in Dec and then loose a few during build as they see how intense it is. CAD is a great group to develop if you haven’t done as much there.

Last hint, feeding the team, Costco rotisserie chickens, salad and roles. Make the freshmen break them down into foil pans, it’s hilarious.

Wishing you the best of luck! feel free to PM me.
(we had 70 rookies last week, I better scan this thread for other advice)

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Lots of good advice here.

Your “ecosystem” will have a peak capacity. Space, money, intangible school support, mentor numbers and availability…this is obvious.

For us the number is somewhere between 30 and 34. Your max will be some other number.

With only four graduating last year we are now at 32. The roster will shift around a bit by tournament time but we have something like 95% stick it out.

How to turn the recruiting tap on and off is another discussion.

To your points. 1. We are aiming for a tournament team of 20. If six people do both (yet another discussion) that means everyone gets to do one event. 2. We are not guaranteeing that every student will go to an event this year. First time we’ve had to say this. Every year we have one or two marginal members who drift in and out. And perhaps one or two who need motivating… We have a 50% attendance AND meaningful contribution rule to travel. Oh, and we don’t have to do much discipline stuff but among the Consequences is not being travel eligible.
3. Being rural we do not have a local event. One is far enough so a bus is needed. Pricey, but what ya gonna do. The other is just in range of parent driven vehicles which are ok if cleared by District staff. 4. We do share some logistics with other area teams. Is anyone nearby going to the same event(s)? Share the bus and/or trailer costs. 5. While I consider 20 to be an ideal tournament team size it is not a hard stop. We were in a scouting consortium last year that kept more busy than in the past. And we will be taking our first run at Impact award this year. I don’t mind bringing a few more IF they all have full time, keep em busy, leave em tired jobs. 6. We are working through how to better organize the team. One area (media/pr) will now be under direct mentor supervision. OTOH our student leads on build and software have stepped up big time and we are finding new roles that don’t come with Titles but are still critical tasks. Got a video team this season. Our captain is a senior and has two “interns” who will step up in the future. Etc.

Problem solving. It’s what FRC is really all about.

T

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Thanks for all the wisdom! Another related question: How many you guys have dedicated strategy teams at comp vs just having the drive team go and chat with the other teams? What do you think the pros and cons are of both?

When we started getting far more applicants than we could really handle (team size limited to the low 30s due to workspace size), we created a “team associate” role for kids that were interested but weren’t able to or didn’t want to make the time commitment of a full team member. The associates mainly help on the non-build teams (awards, outreach, graphics, fundraising, FLL mentoring) and are not eligible to travel with the team. We also are allied with an FTC team. After summer camps and outreach events, the students indicate their choices – this (mostly) self-selection has, IMO, made the “winnowing” a nearly painless process.

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How does the team adjust for students who wish to directly build, but are not able to be a full team member, due to whatever issues preventing them from making the time required?

My concern is for some students who may end up feeling resentment towards the non-build subteams.

[I’m assuming this is re: my post]

(1) We make sure our non-build teams know how valued they are.

(2) We do have some associates who, by invitation, help out the build teams – for example, this year we have one who is absolutely slaying it on the graphics team, but has also been designing and printing many of our 3D-printed parts. I fully expect that, if they want to be a full team member next year, they will be.

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Oh yeah, apologies didn’t hit reply to you

That’s good to hear!

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